La vida breve


Manuel de Falla La vida breve opera to a libretto by Carlos Fernández-Shaw. Directed 2011 by Giancarlo del Monaco at the Palau de les Arts Reine Sofia, Valencia. Stars Cristina Gallardo-Domâs (Salud), Jorge de León (Paco),  María Luisa Corbacho (La abuela), Felipe Bou (El tío Sarvaor), Sandra Ferrández (Carmela/1st and 3rd street-seller), Natalia Lunar (2nd street-seller), Isaac Galán (Manuel), and Antonio Lozano (Voice in the forge/Distant voice/Voice of a street-seller). Features flamenco performers Esperanza Fernández and Juan Carlos Gómez Pastor. Also features dancers Alberto Ferrero, Alejandra Garcia, Sara Gil, Yolanda López, Iván Martin, Antonio Martínez, Lara Pla, Carolina Pozuelo, Alexis Maximiliano Rebman, and Cristhian Sandvoal. Also features mimes Juan José Dalmau and Zvonimir Ostoic. Lorin Maazel conducts the Orchestra de la Comunitat Valenciana and the Cor de la Comunitat Valenciana (Chorus Master Francesc Perales). Set design by Giancarlo del Monaco; costume design by Jesús Ruiz; lighting design by Wolfgang von Zoubeck; choreography by Goyo Montero. Directed for TV by Tiziano Mancini. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B-

Although the music to La vida breve is fairly well-known, the short, one-dimensional opera is rarely produced. Subject title appears to be the only video of this opera that is available. Without giving it all away, here's the plot: Rich young man ruthlessly exploits the love of a poor girl until he jilts her to marry rich girl in elegant part of town. But the poor girl is a Latin Gypsy, so she will crash the wedding party and cause Trouble.

Since this is a 20th century work, Giancarlo del Monaco is legal in opting for brutal simplicity in design. Everything in this production is in black, white, brown, and the various shades of blood as it clots (no blue, green, or yellow need apply). The largely low lighting seems to be mostly if not entirely projected thru red filters. This maybe worked pretty well in the theater live even with all that smoke---the human eye can adjust to extreme conditions well and still see clearly. But all this was devastating to PQ. Resolution is poor, skin looks pasty/shiny, makeup looks ghastly. But this was probably exactly what del Monaco wanted: the result has the creepy look of a silent-movie horror show. The picture content is fine with plenty of long-range shots as well as great close-ups. The long-range shots of the wedding party, which involves the whole stage with spectators along the walls and dancers in the center, have the weak resolution of a DVD. (This was released in  real DVD also; the full-stage shots in the DVD must look like early VHS tapes.)

The singer/actors are fine; Cristina Gallardo-Damâs is impressive as Salud ("Health"), the jilted girl. Gallardo will probably own this role world-wide as long as she wants it. Felipe Bou, our favorite bass, doesn't get to sing a lot, but he sure looks convincing as Salud's uncle (Bou also appears as Coline in Giancarlo del Monaco's great Bohème.)

There's just bit more than a hour of music here, so this is not a great value. We wish C Major had put this on a double-feature disc with another opera  or other Falla orchestral music. But if you are keen to see a Vida breve and can brace yourself for the monotonous design, we'll give it a B-.

No YT of this rather obscure work.